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BKMEA calls for skipping workers' raise for 2 years

  • Published at 06:13 pm December 28th, 2020
Female garment workers in a Bangladeshi factory
File photo of women workers at a garment factory in Bangladesh Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

As per the current minimum wage structure for garment workers set in September 2018, a worker is entitled the increment on their basic salary of Tk 8,000 a month

The Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), the platform of 2,300-odd knitwear factories, has requested the government to postpone the implementation of the 5 per cent annual wage hike for garment workers for the next two years.

As per the current minimum wage structure for garment workers set in September 2018, a worker is entitled the increment on their basic salary of Tk 8,000 a month.

“It has become very difficult to pay workers their wages regularly due to the pandemic,” said BKMEA President AKM Salim Osman in a letter to the labour and employment ministry on Sunday.

While many countries, including Bangladesh, have reduced wages and allowances in different sectors, it is not realistic for the apparel sector to increase wages by 5 per cent as per the provision of the minimum wage.

“Meanwhile, it is not clear to any of us when the situation would be normal, while global buyers are not placing work orders as they are wary about the present situation.”

Besides, the buyers are delaying the payment, which has now extended from 180 to 200 days, said the letter from the knitwear sector’s apex trade body.

The pandemic had a devastating impact on the global economy and employment opportunities had also shrunk.

To cope with the prevailing situation, the employers are taking measures such as temporarily shutting off factories, laying off workers and reducing their wages and other benefits.  

“In the given context, we are requesting the government to suspend the provision of 5 per cent yearly increment of the wage for apparel workers,” the letter added.

However, trade union leaders strongly protested the move and urged the government not to pay heed to the request.

A 5 per cent annual increment in wage is a worker’s right protected by the law, said Nazma Akter, president of Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation.

“When the factory owners make hefty profits, they do not share it with the workers or give more than 5 per cent as an increment. So, why are they now asking to suspend that provision?”

The government should not entertain these types of illegal demand and should rather monitor whether the provision is followed or not to safeguard the workers’ interest, she added. 

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